January Reviews- Good for Me

I read five books this month. Good for me. Yay. Woohoo. Fantastically awesome.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank- Nathan Englander
224 pages
I was lucky enough to snatch up Englander's collection of short stories on Vine and thoroughly enjoyed them. I've said it before, and I'll say it a million more times- writing effective short stories is no joke. Englander develops characters and plot lines precisely, his style oozing out of every nook and cranny. He's smart, but he understands how people feel. What I really appreciate about his writing is that while he's obviously coming at you from the Jewish perspective, as a non-Jew I don't feel left out. I must also recommend one of his novels, The Ministry of Lost Cases, about the Dirty War in Argentina.

Into Thin Air- John Krakauer
416 pages
I already wrote about this book during a Non-Fiction Nagging post, but I must reiterate (again, with the repetition... I feel like I'm at work) how fantastic it is. It makes me want to want to climb Mount Everest (not a typo; I don't want to, because I know I can't, but I want to... want to). Unfortunately, my lack of funding and asthmatic lungs raise some serious objections to this endeavor, so alas, I'll settle for more domestic mountains. I think this book touched me in the same way 180 Degree South did- the idea of a natural quest that someone refuses to give up on is inspiring. Man against nature. Man against self. Man against nature again. Only one can win.

The Time of the Doves- Merce Rodereda
208 pages
This was a book club selection chosen by the more international, novel-resistant member of the group. I liked it- I had some serious, serious doubts about the translation, though. Set in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, the main character marries the wrong man and ends up raising kids in poverty with a roof (and sometimes apartment) full of doves. There are some extremely random scenes, like when the husband saves his tapeworm in a jar and the toddler ends up taking it out and throwing it on the baby, that actually added to the appeal for me.

Mildred Pierce- James M. Cain
304 pages
I loved this book- it was amusing, thoughtful, and reminded me of something a hard-boiled author like Daschiell Hammett would have written (albeit not a mystery). Set in Burbank right after the Great Depression, Mildred kicks her husband out and must make a life for herself and two daughters. Mildred spends the entire novel growing up- learning how to put aside her snobbish instincts, choosing the right man, failing as a mother, and establishing a business of her own. Writing from this era can be a treat; life was modern, but not too much so. An easy read, but one that involves the reader.

The Wonder Spot- Melissa Bank
324 pages
I have a soft spot for Melissa Bank- she was the Mother of Chic Lit, before it became the awful God-forsaken shit that it is today. Her first novel, The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, put the genre on the map and brought her much success. Unfortunately, I don't think her sophomore novel (which I've had on my shelf for four or so years) quite measured up. The main character, Sophie, was witty and had my same dry-humor, but the over-arching plot line just fell through. If it was meant to be a character study I'd have no problem with it, but the problem was that it was supposed to be an episodic type of bildungsroman, and it just fell short. It wasn't horrible by any means, but I just felt that Bank, like Sophie, just didn't really know where she was going.


  1. That's a lot of books! High five! I can't agree more about Into Thin Air. So good!*

  2. Perfect words, perfect description. Great site!